What’s going on? Why is PGE scheduling temporary service interruptions?
To bring new underground cables online, we need to temporarily interrupt power to parts of downtown Portland at 4 a.m. on two different weekends. This is a final step in our multi-phased Marquam Project, which has included building a new substation and upgrading the aging, 60-year-old underground equipment in the downtown core area to help us serve you better, modernize our grid and create a platform for a clean energy future. These improvements will provide a more reliable and resilient grid to serve the downtown core and south Waterfront area and will help reduce unintended power outages. We appreciate your patience as we complete these important system upgrades.
When will the power interruptions happen?
This work will be split between two dates:
- Phase 1 is on Sun., March 10
- Phase 2 is on Sun., March 24, both starting at 4 a.m. (Remember: the switch to daylight savings time happens at 2 a.m. on March 10.)
- The backup date, if needed, is Sat., April 13 at 4 a.m.
Buildings will be affected on only one of these dates.
What areas will be affected?
The area affected by this work is bordered roughly by west Burnside, southwest Jefferson, southwest Naito Parkway and southwest Fifth Ave. The work will be split into two phases, on two different dates — phase one on March 10 and phase two on March 24 — as shown on the map.
Can I use a portable generator during this service interruption?
Yes, but only if you use extreme caution and follow all generator safety rules to protect yourself, others and your equipment. Never, ever, try to “back feed” using a portable generator. That’s the idea of attempting to power your whole business or building by using a doctored extension cord to plug a generator into an electrical outlet. This is extremely dangerous! It can not only ruin your wiring and start a fire, it can also accidentally energize a power line our crew thinks is safe to work on. An unsuspecting PGE lineman could be seriously injured or killed. Only plug an individual appliance into the receptacle outlet of the generator. Always operate your generator outside.
How did PGE choose the dates for these planned outages?
We recognize that system improvement outages are inconvenient, and PGE worked closely with a variety of neighbors, including governmental agencies, building managers, hotels and public transit experts, to identify the best dates to minimize disruptions and potential safety concerns. PGE also secured the proper permit and approvals needed to safely complete this work.
Why did PGE decided to schedule the first outage on March 10 when that is the date when we switch to Daylight Saving Time?
Other dates in March were considered but rejected because there were conflicts with other events in the downtown area, such as the big, annual Shamrock Run and St. Patrick’s Day festivities.
Why are there two different dates scheduled for this work?
We recognize that outages, even planned outages, are inconvenient. A national consultant and PGE engineers determined that using this two-phase approach — splitting the work between March 10 and March 24 — would help ensure that crews could contain and isolate the outages within pre-identified downtown blocks, and residents outside of this area would not experience unplanned service interruption.
Why is there a backup date?
March weather can be unpredictable. We have identified April 13 as a backup date in case we’re faced with a severe storm or other circumstances outside of our control on one or both of the original dates. If both initial outage dates are comprised, both areas will experience a simultaneous outage on April 13.
How long will power be out?
We want to keep the system improvement outages brief. The power will go off at 4 a.m. and ideally be restored in less than one hour. This is complicated work, so it’s possible it may take longer.
Why was 4 a.m. determined as the start time? Were other dates and times considered?
PGE is committed to being a good neighbor, and we carefully considered how these service interruptions affect safety, traffic, logistics and quality of life for businesses and residents alike. To minimize the impact of the event, the 4 a.m. start time appeared to make the most sense because electricity use is lower, traffic is light, most businesses are closed and most residents are sleeping at that time.
Why does PGE have to turn off the power to complete this work
Over two different dates, we will be transferring power from the existing, aging underground electrical lines to new lines that can be expected to serve for decades to come. To complete this switch, we need to deenergize the grid and perform some minor modifications to the system before we can fully restore power. This careful approach helps prevent overloading the system, ensures crew and public safety, and avoids disruptions to residents and businesses outside of the work area.
Should I call PGE when my power goes out that day?
No, if you are within the affected downtown core area there is no need to call us to report the outage since this is a planned event. We appreciate your patience as we complete these important system upgrades.
Did PGE get approval from governmental agencies for this project?
PGE worked closely with multiple City of Portland bureaus, Multnomah County offices and regional public transit agencies to identify dates, timing and logistics to minimize disruption or safety concerns surrounding these planned service interruptions.
How is PGE communicating this information in advance to customers?
We have worked diligently through media outreach, direct mail and face-to-face contact to make sure people and businesses in the affected areas know about the system improvement outages in advance. Weeks prior to the outage dates, we began meeting with building and facilities managers from private companies and governmental agencies. We worked with the Portland Business Alliance and the Building Owners & Managers Association to help us notify nearby downtown businesses, hotels and apartments. We also connected with the Joint Office of Homeless Services, enlisting their Homeless Outreach Teams to notify the local homeless community.
Our communications have included:
- A walking team that will cover the area to make sure all restaurants, shops and businesses are aware and prepared in advance for these outages.
- Mailed communication distributed weeks in advance with a date, map and preparation tips.
- Street signage posted a week prior to each outage to notify public transit users, shoppers and foot traffic in the area.
- Social media reminders and outreach to local news media.
- Posters placed in bars and homeless shelters.
How should businesses and residents of the area prepare?
Even though we expect power will be interrupted only briefly in the early morning hours, we encourage everyone in the affected areas to take some simple steps to prepare:
- It’s a good idea for all businesses and residents to always have outage kits ready, with flashlights, fresh batteries and other essentials.
- Have manual backup plans for electronic door locks, cash registers and other essential equipment.
- Wherever possible, turn off electrical equipment prior to 4 a.m. Turn it back on after power is restored. This helps protect your equipment from the risk of power surges and reduces the initial load on the electrical system when power comes back online.
- Use high-quality surge protectors on computers and other electronics, or consider unplugging them just prior to the outage and plugging them back in after power is restored.
- For fire and security alarm systems, make sure battery backup systems are working, and notify your alarm-monitoring company so they are aware of the temporary power interruptions.
- Elevators will not work while the power is off, unless your building has backup power. It’s a good idea for building managers to post signs near the elevators in advance of the event. Do not use the elevator just prior to the 4 a.m. shutdown time.
- See Prepare My Business or Prepare My Home for more tips.
How can I protect refrigerated or frozen food?
If you don’t open the door, a refrigerator will keep food cold for up to four hours; freezers will keep food frozen for 24 to 48 hours. See foodsafety.gov for more information.
For food service facilities, you may want to consider rescheduling the delivery of any perishable food items around these dates.
What about traffic lights and other safety issues
We are coordinating closely with the City of Portland, Portland Police Bureau, Portland Fire & Rescue and other first responders on traffic control plans, alarms and other public safety issues. During this time, street lights and traffic signals will temporarily be out of service. There will be additional PGE security, contract security and Portland Police personnel monitoring the downtown area.